Hipper, younger makeover for Bata: 5 things to know about the shoe label

Models on the runway during Bata's inaugural fashion weekend in Prague.
Models on the runway during Bata's inaugural fashion weekend in Prague.PHOTO: BATA

When we think of the staid shoe label Bata, several things probably come to mind.

Visiting a store with our parents to buy new white lace-ups for school, perhaps. Or the impression that the well-known brand caters to a more mature crowd with its practical and affordable shoes.

Today, the international footwear label wants to change all that.

Bata is giving itself a makeover and targeting a younger and hipper crowd.

In hopes that its target audience of working adults between the ages of 20 and 35 will be attracted to Bata, the label is pumping some swagger into its shoes.

Think chic high-heeled pumps in metallic rose gold, festival-inspired wedge sandals with floral prints and, for men, cool navy blue leather sneakers with a woven pattern.

The company staged its first fashion weekend in Prague two weeks ago to kick off its rejuvenation drive.

Wait? Bata had a fashion show?

That's right. The two-day showcase featured fashion shows, exhibits of Bata's heritage products and live demonstrations of shoemaking techniques.

Apart from the fact that Bata could pull off a fun fashion-filled weekend, here are some other things you may not know about the label.

1.  After 123 years, it's still a family affair

Thomas Bata biting a shoe to test the quality of the rubber, demonstrating it during a visit to Malaysia. PHOTO: MALAY MAIL

Bata is a family business that started in the Czech Republic

A really old family business too. It was founded in 1894 by Tomas Bata in Zlin, a city in south-eastern Moravia in the Czech Republic. His brother Antonin and his sister Anna also helped to establish the company.

Today, at 123 years old, Bata remains a family-owned company.

The current chairman is Thomas G. Bata, grandson of founder Tomas Bata. The chairman's son, Thomas A. Bata, is the brand's chief marketing officer.

2. It makes a lot of shoes. A lot.

In 1951, Bata erected The Bata Building, which is on the existing site of the present Peninsula Plaza. It houses the store, the offices and a factory. PHOTO: BATA

The label makes shoes in 23 Bata-owned manufacturing facilities in 18 countries around the world, including Indonesia, India, Italy and China. More than 30,000 people work for Bata.

In 1905, the company produced 2,200 pairs of shoes a day. It was the largest shoe company in Europe at the time.

In 2003, it was selling 160 million pairs of shoes a year.

The company was recognised in 2004 by Guinness World Records as the world's largest shoe manufacturer and retailer. Bata has produced more than  14 billion pairs of shoes - the biggest number ever.

According to the brand, more than one million customers shop at Bata every day. It has more than 5,200 stores in more than 70 countries, including 42 in Singapore.

3. Bata came to Singapore in August 1931

Exterior of Bata's flagship store at Peninsula Plaza. PHOTO: BATA

The first Bata outlet was at the Capitol Building in Stamford Road.

In 1951, Bata constructed The Bata Building next to the Capitol Building. It housed a store, offices and a factory. The building was demolished and replaced by Peninsula Plaza in 1979. The brand's flagship store still resides in this building today.

Bata Asia Pacific and Africa operations are also based in Singapore. The office manages close to 3,000 outlets in the region. The label currently has 42 outlets on the island.

Bata became synonymous with school shoes in Singapore in the 1970s when the tagline "First to Bata, then to school" was memorably used in an advertising campaign.

The Straits Times reported in 2003 that the brand sold up to 650,000 pairs of school shoes a year in Singapore.

4. It has its own university - and it teaches more than shoemaking.

Programmes are offered at the Bachelor's, Master's and PhD levels. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/TOMAS BATA UNIVERSITY IN 

This is an actual university.

Named after the founder, Tomas Bata University was established in Zlin, the Czech Republic, in 2001.

The medium-sized university, which enrols about 9,700 students, has six faculties offering courses in technology, economics, humanities, the arts, logistics and crisis management, and health care.

Programmes are offered at the bachelor's, master's and PhD levels.

5. Bubblegummers got its name because of its scent.

Variety of Bubblegummers shoes. PHOTOS: ST FILE

The Bata children's shoe line has interesting name origins. According to chairman Thomas G. Bata, when the rubber shoes were first made, they smelt really bad. A Bata employee poured perfume on them to counter the stench. This resulted in a fruity bubblegum scent.

The Bubblegummers brand has been available since 1982, when it was introduced in Canada.